A searing counter-attack by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) netted the Shark of Messina second place on stage 10 of the Vuelta a España and second place in the overall standings. While the Spaniards Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) have posed questions on the shorter, punchier ascents, Nibali is well able to respond when the big climbs come into view.
Together with former teammate Ivan Basso (Cannondale), another GC contender on the rise, and current teammate Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), the 2013 Giro d’Italia winner made much of the running on the Hazallanas climb. It took some time for Nibali to shake off the little front group of contenders, but when the Shark finally snapped hard enough to break away from his rivals, only Horner was able to withstand his attack.
“It was a very tough stage, very difficult with the heat early on,” Nibali said. “But at the end things worked out pretty well. Jakob [Fugslang] did a very good job and then after that we had good control on things and I’ve taken seconds on some of my principal rivals.”
Asked if he had wanted the lead, Nibali retorted, “I always want the lead. But Horner was ahead, I knew it was going to be hard to catch him.
“But I think that’s fine, because there’s still a long, long way to go. We’ve got a nice rest day now, but then there’s a time trial straight after that.”
Ironically enough, given there are so many mountain stages, that time trial could prove to be the pivotal turning point in a tightly-packed general classification battle, where Nibali trails Horner by 43 seconds.
Asked who the big rivals were as the race reached its near half-way point, Nibali said, “I have to watch Valverde and Rodriguez. But the most important thing is I’ve got a good level. If we win, we win. If not, well what can we do about that?”